Final Thoughts on Oz

As we say g’bye to Melbourne, I’ve compiled a miss mash of things that surprised us, impressed us, intrigued us or just made me giggle — keeping in mind, this is strictly from the point of view of a middly-aged, Midwestern female . . .

Let’s start with the way Aussies talk. Before coming to Australia, I always thought Australians sounded a lot like Brits. After a few months, I realize it’s much different. Aussies are much more casual and have a slang all their own. They shorten words whenever they can. They also use “ee” and “o” to end some words. Breakfast is brekkie, the “trendy” Salvation Army store is Salvos, university is uni and, my favorite, sunglasses are sunnies. A friendly greeting is “ow ‘ya going?,” thank you is “cheers,” pissed up (drunk); and the often heard “fawk’ this” or “fawkin’ that” — you can probably figure that one out!

The other day, Frank and I were watching TV and after a couple back-to-back commercials, we looked at each other and said “Whhaaaattt?” The first kept referring to “getting rid of those annoying ‘mossies.”” We finally figured out they meant mosquitos(!). The second was the new rump steak wrap at “Macca’s” (McDonalds!).

I read an interesting article about the word “mate.” Guys can use this word to address any other male (young or old) when they are being friendly, when they are annoyed or angry, even in lieu of a forgotten name. It’s a great word. There is no one all purpose female equivalent that is consistently situationally/age/socially appropriate that doesn’t sound overly familiar or even condescending (hon, dear).

There are many small bakeries around Melbourne and there seems to be a correlation between how good the bakery is and how crabby the person behind the counter is!

The tram drivers are great — friendly and helpful. The bus drivers aren’t. We figured it’s probably the bus drivers are required to make change and have to deal with traffic (they don’t have a dedicated track like the trams do).

When you see an Australian doctor, you call them by their first name. At the school across the street, students call their teachers by their first name! And instead of a shrill bell, they play Beatles’ music to call the kids inside from recess.

One day, we were watching a cricket match, trying to figure out what was going on when a kid rode by and said, Cricket? That’s the most boring sport ever!” Did you know matches can go on for days? After trying several times, I still don’t get the rules nor the attraction. I think I agree with the kid.

Kids here love basketball and the NBA. A lot of adults wear sports hats – NY Yankees, Red Sox – but if you ask them if they’re a fan, many don’t have a clue what the logo represents. We saw a guy with a red Badger shirt, “They had a big win today!” The guy replied, “I don’t know. Someone sent me the shirt.”

Just after our flight took off  for Cairns, this tall, older woman stands up and is noticeably upset. There’s an alarm blaring. It seems to be above us. She’s opening the overheads. She thinks it’s our bags. “No, we didn’t pack any electronics.” What could it be? Is it something with the plane? She finally gets the attention of the flight attendant. They are befuddled when the woman reaches into her pocket. It was the alarm on her cell phone!

When you get a haircut at a barber, they offer you a complimentary beer!

Frank and I were happy to escape Wisconsin’s crazy election season but very disappointed not to  receive our absentee ballots in time to vote. It was disheartening to see that 2/3rds of Americans didn’t take the time to vote. In Australia, voting is mandatory. You get a ticket if you don’t vote and a larger fine if you go to court and can’t offer a good excuse. And yes, they do have the nasty  negative TV commercials here, too.

We often heard complaints about Melbourne’s very “changeable” weather — 90’s one day, rainy and 50 the next; plus a really strong wind — but it never really bothered us. Just never leave the house without a jacket. Thinking about the snow and cold back home, we figured a cool, rainy day in Melbourne beats a subzero day in Wisconsin.

I’m sure I’ll add more things as we remember them but that’s all for now. Next stop: New Zealand!


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